Legal Market Overview
Despite the political change in the jurisdiction in recent years, Hong Kong, along with its legal system evolving in parallel that of England and Wales during its century and a half of British rule to 1997, continues to have a split legal profession, with terminology similar to that of England – those in law firms are solicitors, with a self-employed independent Bar handling advocacy in the highest value disputes. Temple Chambers and Des Voeux Chambers often spring to mind as market leading chambers in Hong Kong, but the Bar boasts numerous high-quality and accomplished sets. Denis Chang’s Chambers, Andrew Liao SC’s Chambers and Sir Oswald Cheung’s Chambers to name but a few. April 2022 saw the establishment of Rede Chambers, many of whose initial members came from the latter of those three.
No different to the rest of the global legal market, the Hong Kong Bar continues to feel the effects of the global pandemic, with Hong Kong following Mainland China’s continuance of forceful policies, including tight travel restrictions, well beyond other Asian financial centres such as Singapore let alone those in Europe or the US. Covid saw a backlog in the courts that is just now beginning to be cleared. However, that is not to say that the market has been quiet; barristers in Hong Kong are frequently instructed in high-profile, high-value and complex commercial litigation. White-collar crime, regulatory, private client and insolvency work have all seen growth – in addition to a slight change in the types of work seen, largely attributed to the pressures of the pandemic revealing issues that may not have otherwise come to the fore. Moreover, the national security law has wrought change in the types of matters seen in administrative and public law, with fewer politically-sensitive judicial reviews coming through. A growing trend in recent years has been an uptick in multi-jurisdictional matters, as well as more work coming out of Mainland China. Hong Kong also has relevance to the cryptoassets world, with collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX having had its headquarters in Hong Kong up to 2021, when it moved to the Bahamas.
The Hong Kong Bar is undergoing a generational shift, with an old guard of the expatriate senior counsel is beginning to decline in numbers. The Bar in Hong Kong is now bolstered by a growing number of high-quality, locally-educated and multi-lingual junior counsel, with CVs no less impressive than their London peers. Indeed, a small trickle of Hong Kong counsel have also become dual tenants of London chambers as well. Relative to their counterparts in certain other jurisdictions, Hong Kong barristers have always been notable for running very broad practices.